Recent rash of graffiti prompts response from city

by Sarah McKenzie

Graffiti artists targeted warehouse buildings along the transitway over the weekend, infuriating local business owners and leaving a colorful array of “tags.”
Sigmund Harris, owner of Harris Machinery Company, called police Monday after he found 20 spray paint cans and scores of multicolored graffiti signs on the rear wall of one of his warehouses.
Taggers frequently target his building, but Harris said the latest work on his property near the 500 block of 30th Avenue Southeast is one of the largest displays of graffiti he has ever seen.
“Last weekend was a big one for (the taggers),” Harris said. “They painted a lot of odd-shaped letters and numbers. I don’t understand the language.”
Although Harris said he has received a number of calls from police officers, he said no one has taken any action to help him clean up the street art. He said he plans on leaving the graffiti instead of repainting the wall and offering the taggers another chance to use it as a large canvas.
Minneapolis city officials announced Monday they have plans to combat the graffiti issue. Minneapolis police have launched a metrowide task force to identify and prosecute the taggers.
Some city officials have called for tougher penalties, including federal charges to deter graffiti artists from defacing private and public buildings.
Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton announced Monday that her office hired a coordinator specifically assigned to work on the graffiti crackdown. She also rolled up her own shirt sleeves last weekend in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to paint over the tagging.
Robert Patrick, Sr., a southeast Minneapolis beat cop, said he has worked extensively with businesses in Dinkytown and Stadium Village to clean up the graffiti.
“The initiative on the city’s part looks great,” Patrick said. He said most of the taggers around the University are just young kids who spray paint simple, single-colored symbols on buildings, sidewalks and other structures.
Patrick refers the owners to graffiti removal companies and a city hot line that responds to tagging complaints. The city offers to pay for paint to cover the damage to the property, he said.
The metrowide graffiti task force networks 60 law enforcement agencies together and has established a computer database of tags and their respective taggers.
In other police news:
ù Minneapolis police arrested a 40-year-old man on Saturday in a southeast neighborhood for assaulting another man and threatening to hit him with a baseball bat.
The man arrested was still in police custody at the Hennepin County Jail on Tuesday.
The 44-year-old male victim called police shortly after 3 a.m. from his residence on the 500 block of 14th Avenue Southeast to report that the assailant had returned to the victim’s home after an earlier fight in the evening.
The man suffered a cut above his eye from the assault, according to the police report.
The report states that the victim denied medical treatment.

ù University Police cited three juveniles Friday for skateboarding in the Williamson Hall plaza and obstructing the legal process, according to police reports.
The officer initially approached six skateboarders, but was only able to catch and ticket one girl and two boys after chasing them down on foot.
Their skateboards were impounded at the University Police Department, according to the report. Police released the teenagers to their parents.
University Police have cited a handful of skateboarders each week since the beginning of spring quarter.